Saturday, January 4, 2014

Cannibalism at Jamestown: Another Victim

This is a story about a woman whose death is one of the grisliest in American history. She, like the teenage girl whose bones were recently discovered at Jamestown, was a victim of cannibalism--perhaps the first one. Actually, there were two victims in this story: this woman was pregnant.

            George Percy (who was there) tells us what happened: In the terrible winter of 1609-10, people inside the Jamestown fort were reduced to food rations of “Halfe a can of meal for a man a day. ” How much was that? A “can” was a tin receptacle holding about 4 to 8 ounces. Let us say the “meal” was like oatmeal. How many calories in half a cup of oatmeal? About 150. The average adult needs 1500 to 2000 calories per day to maintain a healthy body weight,
            How long could you last on a diet of 150 calories a day?
            One man, crazed and starving,  “murdered his wife Ripped the childe out of her womb and threw it into the River and after chopped the Mother in pieces and salted her for his food.”
            Her partially consumed remains were discovered in a wooden chest in the couple’s house. George Percy, who was then president of the colony, ordered the husband hanged by his thumbs with weights on his feet until he confessed what he had done. Then he was executed.

            Poor wife. Poor husband. Poor Jamestown.

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